Game 27: The Martinezes will have to hit their way out
The numbers on Victor Martinez through his first 25 games were ugly: A .212 batting average, .263 slugging percentage, no home runs and a .542 OPS.
His numbers when he crossed 100 plate appearances were even uglier, batting .198 with a .514 OPS.
Those numbers were not from Tuesday. They were from 2013, when Victor Martinez was working his way back from knee surgery, and when some were suggesting he was done. He didn’t hit his first home run until his 28th game and his 125th plate appearance. He kept on playing, and he kept on batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He ended up batting .319 with 14 home runs, 73 RBIs and an .837 OPS the rest of the way.
It doesn’t mean he’s in for that kind of turnaround this year. It does mean he’ll get the benefit of the doubt to try.
So, too, will J.D. Martinez, who has his own slump to worry about. While Victor Martinez fell to 1-for-14 in May with his 0-for-4 night Tuesday, J.D. Martinez extended his skid to 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts since his home run off Tim Stauffer last Wednesday in Minnesota.
“He’s just chasing pitches,” Brad Ausmus said of the latter. “I personally think he’s thinking a little bit too much, a combination of not picking up the ball and thinking too much. His swing is fine.”
The path out for both of them was made clear after Tuesday’s loss.
“Really, they’re going to have to hit their way out of it,” Ausmus said. “It’s not a bad thing we see a couple lefties in a row for Vic.”
Victor Martinez’s surgically repaired left knee is not an issue when he bats right-handed. He’s also 15-for-32 with three doubles and three home runs off Chris Sale, who starts Wednesday, and 10-for-21 off Thursday starter Jose Quintana. The Tigers need the favorable matchups they can find against both.
Beyond that, the Tigers need what they can get this season out of Victor Martinez, too. By now, the scouting report against him is clear: A pitch low and in to make him move his legs can set him up for an out. It has happened daily, and will probably keep happening.
At this point, there’s no indication to believe a stint on the 15-day disabled list will change the situation with his knee, let alone a couple days off. His knee pretty much is what it is for now, limited meniscus and all. Fifteen days won’t help that.
Play of the game: Conor Gillaspie’s two-run triple was a culmination of the struggles Shane Greene had all night commanding the strike zone. It was his 57th and final pitch of the game, and just his 26th strike. Gillaspie was the 12th White Sox batter on which Greene had fallen behind on his first pitch.
Out of the game: Jeff Samardzija’s three-pitch strikeout of Miguel Cabrera thwarted the Tigers’ best chance to get back into the game, stranding runners at the corners in the fifth inning.
Strategery: Ausmus said he wasn’t simply trying to give Angel Nesbitt work when he brought in the rookie reliever to pitch the eighth. First, he said, he was trying to keep the game close. Beyond that, he was trying to keep left-hander Blaine Hardy available for Wednesday’s game by using him for one inning instead of two.
Line of the game: Shane Greene’s 2 2/3 innings tied the shortest start of his Major League career. The four walks tied his career high from his last meeting with the White Sox on April 19 at Comerica Park.
Stat of the game: Greene gave up as many ground-ball hits as groundouts, four each.